Category Archives: Teaching

Summer Break: Not Just a Vacation

I saw a meme the other day and, despite a 15-minute Google search, I cannot find it now.

What it said was this:
“Teachers are not on summer break. They are in recovery.”

Truer words were never spoken.

I recognize other stressful professions don’t get nine weeks every year to recover. I am grateful for people who do those jobs. That doesn’t change the fact that teaching is an emotional roller-coaster. Through the year, I invest so much of myself in my students, my curriculum, and my fellow teachers that the experience leaves me feeling paper thin. As I age, my skills in the classroom continue to evolve and develop, but my stamina decreases with every year. I enter each summer break more tired and worn than the previous.

I had a fabulous year this year. At the beginning of the school year, I moved into my brand-new classroom. I had a wonderful group of students who reached and then surpassed every expectation I set. My department worked together as a team, trying new things and collaborating to do what is best for students. The parents were so helpful and supportive. So many amazing things happened this year, and yet I am emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. I watched new hires go through what every new teacher experiences and reminded myself that this job is really difficult. Those of us who have been here for a while forget just how challenging teaching can be because we have learned to navigate the waters so well. Still, it takes a toll.

I (and I imagine most of my fellow teachers) will have a summer filled with planning new curriculum, selecting new concert repertoire, and teaching summer workshops and camps. Despite that, being able to step away from my normal routine will help me regain a fresh focus for another school year. I can only speak for myself, but I doubt I could keep doing this job if there wasn’t an opportunity to step away and regroup.

I am certainly open to exploring other forms of school years, like trimesters or quarterly sessions, but those sorts of mountains are hard to move. Until changes happen, I will relish the opportunity to rest, re-establish my intentions, and start the next school year with a clear head.


Dear High School Football Fans,

Dear High School Football Fans,

High school football season is now upon us.  Two-a-day practices are over and school has begun.  Every Friday, communities will gather in their respective stadiums to cheer on their local boy heroes.  Cheerleaders will jump and yell, parents will sell hot dogs and Fun Dip, and middle schoolers will walk in circles trying to look older than they are.

And, of course, the marching band will be there.

For most people, football games are the only times they ever get a glimpse of the kids that belong to high school band.  If this is your only exposure to marching band, you may think the band’s main function is to support the local football team and pump up the crowd during halftime.  You would be wrong and I’ll let you in on a little secret:

High school football fans, they’re not doing it for you.

That show that you’re tired of watching by the fourth week of the season….they’re not doing it for you.

The two weeks they sweat through band camp, carrying tubas and getting sunburned, to learn the show you’re not watching because you have to pee….they’re not doing it for you.

The taunts of “band fag!” they endure in the hallways of the school where they should feel safe and secure…they don’t endure them for you.

The mornings they show up at school 30 minutes early to march in the fog and dewy grass, as the weather gets steadily colder….they don’t do it for you.

The years of learning to play an instrument that some 12-year-old on the sidelines will try to launch a French fry into….they don’t do it for you.

Marching on while knowing that the general public completely misunderstands how and why they do what they do, as well as how hard it is to actually do….they’re not doing it for you.

I’m not saying the band kids don’t enjoy football games or don’t want to support their classmates with up-tempo versions of “Hang On Sloopy” and “Land of a Thousand Dances.”  I grew up in a football-crazy town and loved watching and supporting my team from the band section.  But I didn’t join band because of football games and I’m not in the minority.

Kids join marching band for many reasons: because they love music, because their friends are in it, because you have to be in marching band to participate in concert band (yes, there’s still band after football season is over) the list goes on. They stay in band because of the camaraderie that is unique to the experience or because the intrinsic reward of scoring over a 90 at a marching band competition is worth the months of practice. They stay in band because they love the feeling of having worked hard together to accomplish something that no one could’ve accomplished on their own.

Certainly, the band plays an important role at football games. They are a vital part of the school spirit that pulses through each small town on chilly October evenings. Yes, the football team is worth being supported and a long-standing part of that tradition is to have the band there to play the national anthem, the school fight song, and any other music that helps bring the town together. But band students don’t owe you a halftime show. They aren’t rejects who can’t play sports, desperate to be part of the high school football experience. They’re not “nerds” relegated to an activity long-thought to be the final home of social rejects. They’re talented students who have discovered a craft they love and an activity they enjoy. Part of being involved in that activity means putting on a uniform and playing at half-time and that’s a great thing. But don’t think for a second that the long hours of practice and sweat are inspired by what Johnny Quarterback’s Grandma is going to think about their performance while she sits in the stands.

Band kids deserve your support because what they do is as worthwhile as any other activity….

but they don’t do it for you.




Take a Deep Breath

It’s about to get crazy here.

For the next 5 weeks, I’ll be lucky to keep my sanity. I think I’ll manage, as I do every year, but somewhere in there Jim is sure to be the recipient of a major mommy meltdown.

I’ve always thrived on being busy.  As a teenager, I would fill my calendar with activities: rehearsals, practices, part-time jobs.  If there was an empty day, I would look for a way to fill it. Until recently, I still enjoyed being busy. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s having a third child, but I’m reaching the point in my life when I look at the calendar and pray we have nowhere to go after work and school.

There are no days on my calendar that look like that.

Part of it is being a music teacher, part of it is having three kids with their own interests and activities. Teeball, dance recitals, concerts, field trips, Mother’s Day: is a Spring whirlwind we fly through every year. I try my best to enjoy it, but some days it’s all I can do just to get through it.

Fortunately, once we’re through the craziness, we arrive at summer when we can take a deep breath.

(Except for Jim.  He doesn’t get breath until September.)

Here in the Middle

Professionally, the past week-and-a-half has been one of the most rewarding I can remember.  As my students and I travelled through a musical vortex of concerts, tours, adjudications, and field trips, I was constantly reminded how almost-human middle school students can be when they put their minds to it.  My students performed beautifully and behaved wonderfully, and they were excited to do their best.  They even brought home a trophy for their “superior” singing.  Weeks like this past one are what get me through on the days when I’m certain all of my students are the spawn of Satan.

Some of my students

Some of my students

If you are (or have been) the parent of a middle school student, I’m sure you have some idea of what we go through here in the middle.  Now, take those three years – the ones from 11 to 14 – and loop them over and over.  Remember how you keep (or kept) telling yourself that this is “just a stage” and your child will quickly be through it?  For us, it’s a never-ending, three-year-long Groundhog Day of early adolescent drama, attitude, laziness, and insecurity that can sometimes last for up to 35 years.

And we love it.

Few people who graduate with education degrees throw their caps in the air and announce “my dream is to work in a middle school!” Personally, I thought I was going to be a high school or university choral director and direct advanced singers through the great choral masterpieces.  Like many, however, I stumbled into middle school and discovered that it’s where I fit the best.  I love how middle school students have a constant nervous energy that can often be channeled to achieve great beauty (and, yes, great mischief).

Yesterday, I watched the video of our spring concert with my students and they filled out questionnaires detailing the strengths and weaknesses of our performance.  At the bottom, I asked them if they thought they had grown as a singer.  Most said “yes” and gave details, such as “I am better at singing harmonies” and “my range is much wider.”  My favorite, however, came from one of my boys, who wrote:

“I have improved this year because at the beginning of the year I wasn’t actually singing.”

Sometimes, here in the middle, such small victories mean as much as a trophy.


Welcome to my Blog!


Welcome to my blog! My name is Holly.  I am a wife and mother of two children (a 6-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy).  I teach music full-time in a middle school, give music lessons privately in my home, and direct a local church choir.  To learn more about me, check out the “About” page above.


Why Blog?

I’ve been journaling privately since the first grade.  I love to write.  It’s therapeutic and artistic.  However, having others read my writing is extremely nerve-wracking for me.  I think having someone see me naked may be less stressful.  This is a ridiculous way to feel about something I love doing, so I decided to dive in and share my writing with the internet.

Why “Taking You With Me”?

In searching for a blog title, I kept coming back to the idea of life as a journey.  I love how the phrase, “taking you with me,” can have so many meanings:

  • To my husband – “Life is an adventure and so I’m glad I’m taking you with me.”
  • To my kids – “I’m going to the grocery store and I’m taking you with me.”
  • To my readers – “As I blog about my life, I’m happy to be taking you with me.”

And then, there’s the most common use of the phrase:

  •  “If I go down, I’m taking you with me!”

In any case, “taking you with me” implies that we’re going somewhere, whether physically, emotionally, spiritually or otherwise, and we’re not doing it alone.

So, thank you for joining me on this journey!